Community Nursery welcomes new director
With Community Nursery School of Wilton director Mary Ann Putman retiring at the end of June, lifelong Wilton resident and experienced preschool educator Leigh Heffernan will succeed her.
Before coming to Community Nursery four years ago, Heffernan sent her own children to the nursery school and taught at two other preschools.
“When my oldest [Beth] was 3, we decided to move back to Wilton from Old Greenwich, and I was completely overwhelmed in trying to find the perfect school for my almost-4-year-old,” said Heffernan.
The second she walked into the 79-year-old nursery school at 9 Hubbard Road, Heffernan said, “I knew I had found a place that we could both call home.”
Community Nursery’s director at the time, Penny Edwards, was “so welcoming,” said Heffernan, and “the children looked like they were so happy.”
“As a young mom, I listened to more seasoned moms tell me that their children formed lasting friendships with their friends at Community Nursery School, and that appealed to me,” she said.
“Now that my little Beth is graduating from Wilton High School in a few short months, I realize how special it is that those bonds that were formed in her class in the 4’s still exist today.”
If she again had that chance, Heffernan said, she would “do everything exactly the same.”
“Community Nursery School of Wilton truly is a special place,” she said.
Heffernan said working at other preschools has helped her “see things from different perspectives.”
Heffernan started off teaching 2-year-olds in a home day care environment before teaching 2- and 3-year-olds at Create Learning Center. She also served as an assistant in a 2’s classroom at the Children’s Day School.
“My heart always drew me back to Community Nursery School of Wilton,” said Heffernan, “and I have enjoyed every minute of being back at the little red schoolhouse.”
For the past four years at Community Nursery, Heffernan said, she has “had the pleasure” of creating the preschool’s current 2’s program and “being the lead teacher in that classroom.”
For two of those years, Heffernan said, she also served as a co-head teacher in the 3’s classroom.
Heffernan said she was asked by Amy Gubner, president of the preschool’s board, to be the new director after Putman announced her retirement.
“I was excited and honestly nervous to be stepping into such big, wonderful shoes,” said Heffernan.
As the new director, Heffernan said, she will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the school and enrollment, being the liaison between teachers and the school’s parent board, and “making sure that we are providing a program that stays true to our school … and offering what the changing preschool and kindergarten environments are asking for.”
Heffernan said the “staff and the parents who walk through our doors” are what have made Community Nursery “so special over the years.”
“They are really the people who have kept our school running for almost 80 years,” she said.
“I hope to continue our long tradition of providing children with the skills that they will need to be successful students in our schools, confident, lifelong learners, and willing risk takers, while at the same time teaching respect, kindness and wonder.”
The preschool’s programming has been “constantly evolving” over the years “as the needs of families have adjusted,” said Heffernan, and “we really try to make sure we are sticking to developmentally appropriate school offerings.”
Heffernan said the best part about Community Nursery School is that it’s small, which allows the needs of children and their parents to be met “both logistically and developmentally.”
“If we find that there is a program that parents would like that will help us foster resourceful, resilient children, we will do our best to bring that to Community,” she said.
“We are here for the kids first, but our families’ needs are hugely important.”
The preschool has one 2’s class, one 3’s class, and one 4’s class, said Heffernan, which allows children to form “wonderful bonds” and the teachers to “really communicate with one another so we know what is happening in the classrooms.”
“Community holds a very special place in my heart,” said Heffernan. “I chose to send my own children there because it feels like you’re coming home.”
Heffernan said Community Nursery’s teachers provide “a loving environment filled with learning, exploration and fun,” and children get a “cozy introduction to the idea of school.”
When students leave Community Nursery, Heffernan said, “they arrive in kindergarten ready to take on the world and the exciting bigger hallways of elementary school.”
With openings in each of its classrooms next year, Heffernan said, she looks forward to “chatting with prospective families, alumni, and fellow parents,” and also “sharing [her] love for our little red schoolhouse.”